The 1st or 2nd century statue of the goddess of love was hammered down at £16m (£18.6m including buyer’s premium) at Sotheby’s on December 7.
Five bidders competed for 20 minutes to acquire the 6ft 1in (1.87m) high marble, with the final bid successfully placed by an Asian private collector. It went way above the estimate of £2m-3m.
The statue was in Scotland for 144 years from 1776 when it was purchased in Rome by Douglas Hamilton from the Scottish dealer Gavin Hamilton. Considered among the finest single pieces of ancient sculpture ever to have resided in Scotland, it is recorded in the 1850-70s standing in the Great Staircase of Hamilton Palace, the south Lanarkshire seat of the Dukes of Hamilton.
Four similar marbles adorned the house until 1919. Of the other three, one is in a US museum, another was last sold at auction in the 1970s in New York and the whereabouts of the last remains unknown. The Aphrodite statue was recently uncovered by Sotheby’s. Its 20th century provenance includes its purchase by William Randolph Hearst in 1920 and its subsequent sale in 1940 to the New York art dealer Joseph Brummer. It was last recorded at Brummer’s estate sale at Parke-Bernet in 1949.
The Hamilton Aphrodite, the only full statue of the deity depicted in the nude to come to auction in 20 years, copies the lost 4th Century BC Greek statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles.
In 2007 Sotheby’s sold the 3ft (92cm) high Roman bronze Artemis and the Stag from the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, in 2007 for $25m (£13.1m).
The single-lot sale was comfortably the highpoint of the ‘Classic Week’ offerings at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams in London that included sales of antiquities, Old Master paintings and associated traditional works of art.